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Being Gracious with Parenting Advice

February 14, 2012


Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.


I notice this funny thing happens among new parents. Other– “more seasoned”–parents hone in on the unsuspecting parents and dump parenting advice on them like they were waiting for it with open arms. In turn, the new parents may be so excited about some parenting method they read about that they have to TELL THE WHOLE WORLD about it (cough, cough) or see any advice contrary to their parenting style as an attack on them. *sigh*

We all like to think we know a little something. I remember once I was with a friend at a park. My son Michael was a year old; her daughter a couple months younger. As we pushed our kids on the swings, I wistfully mentioned something about Michael sleeping in bed with us. She immediately assumed there was a problem with this, and mentioned how some sort of baby sleep-training book helped her. Well, she didn’t just mention it–she seemed to think it was the answer. Of course I just ignored her suggestion to read the book, as we didn’t have a problem!

I’m still a relatively new parent at 3.5 years, but I have learned some lessons about respect that even a few well-seasoned parents haven’t figured out yet. Not saying I’m really an old pro yet, but here are some things I’ve learned about how to be politely social and gracious about parenting advice that comes your way:

  • Try not to take advice as a malicious attack on your parenting methods. (Most) people mean well.
  • Hear them out on the off chance they actually say something helpful.
  • Don’t assume you have all the answers. (But you do get to decide if the advice is right for your situation.)
  • Have a humble attitude.
  • If you don’t agree, politely share your thoughts. It helps them understand how your situation is different and may open them up to new ideas.
  • Being confident as a parent means you don’t feel threatened by advice.
  • Saying something like, “Interesting, I may have to read up on that,” or just asking questions will make a person happy that you are taking them seriously, but shows that you have a mind of your own.
  • To turn down advice, you can say something like, “What we are doing now is actually working really well” or “I’m just not comfortable with that” or explain why you think it wouldn’t work in your situation. You can even say, “That’s an idea, but I was thinking of trying ____.”
  • To deal with hostile advice, have your facts ready, and be ready to blow them away with a superior argument. ;)

Now what about giving parenting advice? Are you just bursting at the seams to share your infinite wisdom? I know I’m grateful for some gems that others have shared with me, but how to do it without being a pest? Here are some ideas:

  • Always assume the parent you are talking to is intelligent and wants and knows what is best the best for their child.
  • Don’t actually give advice. Rather, share ideas in a take it or leave it kind of way.
  • Try saying,  “Have you ever thought/heard of…?” Try not to say it in a “my way is best” tone.
  • Validate them. If you show that you think they are doing a good job, they may be more open to your ideas.
  • Find your common ground before sharing a different approach with them.
  • Let the parent’s own concerns come up in conversation, then help them brainstorm.
  • Never tell a parent they are doing something wrong, unless it’s a serious safety issue. And I mean like having a car seat installed improperly or the baby is sleeping around big fluffy pillows.
  • Leave controversial topics alone, unless they seem like they are actually interested in hearing about what you are doing. In which case you can talk about why you have chosen to do what you are doing.
  • The most favorable conditions for giving advice are when a parent actually asks for it. In this case, pay attention to what the parent is actually asking for, and try to keep your advice relevant to their situation.
  • Remember that your relationship is more important than “who’s right.”
  • Lastly, if you just aren’t getting enough opportunities to help other mamas with your wisdom and knowledge, get on a parenting forum (Natural Parents Network on Facebook is GREAT) and you’ll got loads of opportunities.

I know I’ve been that zealous new mom who thinks her way is superior as well as the insecure new mom who feels that everyone thinks she’s doing it wrong. Sometimes it takes a little (or a lot of) work to get over it, but I think the best way is just talking face to face with moms who parent differently. It can really open up your heart.

By the way, happy Valentine's Day!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it’s from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother’s groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the “Mommy-space” online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles… — Jenny at I’m a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents’ worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting – Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she’s learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others’ parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t — We’ve all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you’re stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think “Gosh, I wish I said…” This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought “Gosh, I wish I said…”
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don’t Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she’d want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying “I’m Right and You’re Wrong” Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won’t care — Cassie of There’s a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don’t know what to do when you’re confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky – Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert’s Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2012 1:56 am

    Love this! You are full of wise tips on this issue. I think preventing myself from getting defensive when advice is offered is step #1 for me, for sure. I also agree that advice is best offered when asked for and when done in a casual give-and-take. I’m always surprised when people actually take my advice in those situations … because it never happens otherwise! ;)

    • February 14, 2012 11:46 pm

      “I’m always surprised when people actually take my advice in those situations … because it never happens otherwise!”


  2. February 14, 2012 7:52 am

    Great tips! My favorite is to not tell people they are doing something wrong unless it’s a serious safety issue or they specifically ask for advice (and then, phrase it nicely and not as if you are telling them they are doing something wrong.) I think sometimes we forget our place. I try to hold my tongue when my friends post FB statuses that make me cringe, and remember that it’s none of my business unless they ask!

    • February 14, 2012 11:53 pm

      Oh, yes, FB statuses…argh. Or their blogs. One time my SIL wrote on her blog that her toddler was taking his diaper off at night and smearing poop, and wanted advice. So I suggested taking him to go potty when he wakes up because he obviously didn’t enjoy wearing a soiled diaper (they were potty-training him so I thought this advice was fine). Clearly my wording wasn’t the best, and she assumed I thought they should have done EC because that’s what I had done, even though I didn’t say that. I think I hurt her feelings. My problem was that I didn’t read her clearly. What she was really asking for was advice on keeping the diaper ON. I should have just kept my fingers still and left the blog without a word.

  3. February 14, 2012 8:02 am

    Yes! I love this post.
    I think sometimes as a brand new parent I was really wanting to tell everyone how we parent. I’m really too tired now. It’s like at a certain point it’s just like whatever… I really like your suggestion about helping out on natural patents network. It’s better to offer advice to people who want to try similar methods. :)
    Happy valentines to you too. Enjoy the chocolate :D

    • February 14, 2012 11:55 pm

      That’s really a good point about sharing advice with parents who have a similar parenting style. They are much more receptive! And yeah, I’m kind of tired, too. That new-parent gusto has worn off, lol.

  4. February 14, 2012 11:49 am

    What a great post, I love the points you bring out for giving and receiving advice. I too think it great to help on online forums like NPN where you know like and open minded parents are looking to receive and give advice. Great post!

  5. February 14, 2012 1:19 pm

    I love these gentle tips on interacting respectfully! I think a whole lot about being an active (but not aggressive) participant in these types of conversations has to do with your first point: always assume the other parent is striving to do their best and make the best decisions for his or her family. It all boils down to that, and I think it’s why we are so impassioned (and even quick to jump to conclusions sometimes): because we all just care so much about the important thing we’re doing as parents.

    • February 14, 2012 11:57 pm

      That really is the core of peaceful interactions, isn’t it? Assuming the best of the other parent. And yes about why we get so impassioned!

  6. February 15, 2012 9:49 am

    Great example on the baby dangler – and one that is so common! I have never approached a parent with one of those on, but I have had many approach me when they see me in one of my carriers, and I am happy to share info – without degrading their choices.

  7. February 15, 2012 6:56 pm

    Excellent advice! I love what you shared about connecting with the parents first. I have learned with my children that they respond so much better if they know that I am listening to their hearts and that I respect them and their choices *before* I try to instruct. Connection is vital with both children and adults!


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